By Louise Phillips
The title of this newest TheatreSports show refers of course to that cheery schoolyard taunt, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Pants on Fire, at the Improv Centre to Nov. 17, is a lot smarter than kindergarten thugs, and packs a lot more laughs.
TheatreSports is so-called because it applies competitive rules of play to stage improvisations. Pants on Fire is semi-structured to avoid the kind of embarrassing moments that can result from free-for-all improv; and the players, drawn from a team of trained pros, are major-league.
Each performance revolves around a guest and the opening-night choice was fail-safe: Christopher Gaze, artistic director of Bard on the Beach. Gaze was unflappable pitted against the lightning-bright wits of Diana Frances, David Milchard, Michael Teigen, Taz VanRassel and Pearce Visser. Well, almost unflappable: Gaze looked discomfited when his opponents swore they had auditioned for him (some lied—no surprise). Or was Gaze faking? After all, this guy is a veteran actor; actors lie for a living; do we have an equation here? Trying to second-guess the guest is half the fun of this TheatreSports format. Gaze claimed, among other things, that he once pimped for a client when working as a waiter (T), always enters from stage right (F), has body-boarded on the Zambezi River (T), and owns 400 clocks (F).
The players improvise the rest of the show, based on the guest’s revelations. Among dozens of side-splitting scenarios, Frances delivered a memorable Shakespeare soliloquy, and Visser played a cat washing its nether regions.
Just as amusing were the reactive lighting by Su Scarfe and sound by Laura Skelton. Smooth ad-libbing host Brian Anderson refereed the match. Final score: players 4, Gaze 5. Hot stuff.
Oct. 25 Dave Evil (comedian)
Nov. 2 Colin Cunningham (Da Vinci’s Inquest, FlashPoint, Falling Skies)
Nov. 3 Linda Cullen and Bob Robertson (Double Exposure Radio)
Nov. 8 Bill Merchant (Vancouver Film School)
Nov. 10 Riaz Meghji (Breakfast TV)
Nov. 15 Erin Cebula (ET Canada)
Nov. 17 Clay St. Thomas (JR FM)